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Alibaba developed an AI chip to improve its cloud computing services

By Koh Wanzi - on 25 Sep 2019, 2:41pm

Alibaba developed an AI chip to improve its cloud computing services

Alibaba today unveiled a new chip it developed that will help it improve its cloud computing services, boosting things such as search, product recommendations, and customer service for e-commerce sites. The Hanguang 800 specialises in the acceleration of machine learning tasks. It is the company's first self-developed AI chip and runs off algorithms designed and optimised for business applications like retail and logistics. 

The chip is already being used within Alibaba to power product search, automatic translation, and personalised recommendations on e-commerce sites, in addition to advertising and intelligent customer services. 

"The launch of Hanguang 800 is an important step in our pursuit of next-generation technologies, boosting computing capabilities that will drive both our current and emerging businesses while improving energy-efficiency," said Jeff Zhang, Alibaba Group CTO and President of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence.

"In the near future, we plan to empower our clients by providing access through our cloud business to the advanced computing that is made possible by the chip, anytime and anywhere."

Around one billion product images are uploaded daily to Alibaba's e-commerce site Taobao every day by merchants. According to the company, it used to take one hour to categorise these images and deliver personalised recommendations to its hundreds of millions of customers. With the Hanguang 800, the same process reportedly only takes 5 minutes. 

The chip was developed by DAMO Academy, a research institute Alibaba launched in 2017, and T-Head, the company's semiconductor division. However, there are no immediate plans to sell the chip as a standalone commercial product, according to a company spokeswoman.

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